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How Polluted Is The Water At Your Favorite SoCal Beach?

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Once a year for the past 30 years, Heal The Bay has released its annual beach report card for California, which rates the cleanest and dirtiest spots along our coastline.

They just released their 2019-2020 report.


Compared to historic averages, beaches in Southern California were slightly dirtier than in previous years during our dry months, but slightly cleaner during our wet ones.

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The slightly cleaner wet weather ratings could be due to the late season rains not coming early enough to impact the report card, which compiled water-testing data from April 2019 to March 2020.

Heal The Bay's rating system takes into account three different types of bacteria when rating a beach: total coliform, enterococcus and fecal coliform or E. coli, all of which can come from the digestive tracts of humans and animals, and the presence of which can be indicative of pathogens in the water.

Those bacteria are particularly present following sewage spills and rain, which washes bacteria from land down to our coastline. That's why you get sick when you surf right after a storm.

The higher the presence of bacteria in water quality tests throughout the year, the worse a beach's rating.


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If you’re looking for clean beaches in L.A. County, three made Heal The Bay's Honor Roll:

  • Palos Verdes Estates, at Palos Verdes Cove
  • Rancho Palos Verdes, Long Point
  • Redondo State Beach at Topaz Street

Orange and San Diego Counties dominated the list with many of their beaches, including:

  • Dana Point Harbor Youth Dock
  • San Clemente, at El Portal storm drain
  • Encinitas, San Elijo State Park at north end

It should be noted that all of the above beaches could be made dirty on any given day given a variety of factors, including sewage spills and rain.
Heal The Bay puts out a daily report card for a number of beaches in SoCal.


In L.A. County, Topanga Beach was one of the dirtiest places in the state to dunk your head, making Heal The Bay's Beach Bummer list. Understandable, as it's in front of a very stinky lagoon.

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“The lagoon receives high amounts of dog and bird fecal matter, so when the lagoon is breached, the fecal matter flows into the ocean resulting in high bacteria concentrations,” said Luke Ginger, a water quality scientists with Heal The Bay.

Poche Beach and the San Clemente Pier in Orange County made the Bummer list as well.

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